I woke up on this day with plans for a couple of kitchen projects, but a mid-morning delivery from a nearby friend inspired an expansion of the plans. We had recently visited her new home on Memorial Day and had gotten a tour of her mushroom growing setup before admiring her young fruit tree which was in the midst of ripening some unidentified stone fruit. A couple weeks have passed and the stone fruit has been identified (apricots, still warm from the sun, never refrigerated, and with a sweet floral aroma seeping through the paper bag), and some newly opened chestnut mushrooms have been harvested and brought to our door. I knew the best way to maximize the freshness of this produce would be to use them as soon as I possibly could. I decided to work them into my culinary plans for the day, including a dinner I had planned to make. What follows is a fairly laconic account of my projects over the course of the day.
The first thing I did was get myself a glass of water. Then I got my butter out of the fridge to soften. For all viennoiserie it's best to use a butter with a high percentage of butter fat. Typically these butters will be labelled “European style” or something similar and will clock in at around 84% butter fat. I'm using a salted butter from Farmhouse Kitchen, a coop based in Wisconsin.
The first step is to flatten the butter into a rectangle.
At this point the butter needs to chill a little to become workable, so I also grabbed some ground pork out of the freezer to thaw (I’m thawing it under cold running water because I don’t think ahead and need it on the quick) because I want to turn it into breakfast sausage to make sausage rolls with some of my croissant dough.
Speaking of croissant dough. My butter is ready so the next step is to place the butter on my rolled out and chilled dough (I started mine the night before and let it bulk ferment in the fridge overnight). I fold the dough over the butter forming a packet, then roll out and fold into thirds like a letter, thus laminating the butter into the dough.
Time to harvest some herbs. We were a little late planting our garden so our herbs are still on the small side, but I was able to get a nice little harvest.
Time for another lamination on the croissant dough.
I have to harvest the herbs even if I don’t have a plan to use them in order to keep them growing properly. At this point I’m not sure what I want to do with the mint I clipped, until it dawns on me that I can put mint in cocktails. I often say that cooking at home is best done with a drink in hand, otherwise you might mistake it for a chore.
I didn’t want a mint julep, so I opted for the second most obvious choice: a mojito. Unfortunately mojitos call for club soda which we’re out of at the moment. Fortunately, I can fix that. I filled up an old Topo Chico bottle with filtered water and put it in the freezer to chill.
Then I realized I’m actually gonna need more ground pork because I’ve decided to make stuffed boneless chicken for dinner.
Time to mix up the breakfast sausage. Here I use sage and thyme from my garden as well as shallots, nutmeg, black pepper, cayenne, maple syrup from Bobo’s Mountain Sugar in Vermont (the best maple syrup in the country), and just a dash of MSG.
I also started thinking about a dessert. I wanted to keep it simple so I pitted and macerated some black cherries in a bit of amarena cherry syrup, and some fairly decent DOP balsamic vinegar.
The aforementioned apricots and mushrooms.
I wanted to use some of this special fruit right away so I decided to split my croissant dough between sausage rolls and apricot danishes. I cut a bunch of the ripest fruits in half.
Then harvested same more herbs with a little help.
Then finished shaping the croissant dough and left it to proof.
Then I sautéed some of the chestnut mushrooms with some lemon/garlic/thyme compound butter to use as part of the filling for my chicken.
Turns out the water is cold enough to be carbonated at this point.
But first I want to finish the filling for the chicken with the sautéed mushrooms, some parsley, thyme, ground pork, garlic, some red wine, and maybe a little bit of rosemary.
I circled back to the carbonation project, grabbed my chilled water, put on the carbonator cap, squeezed out all the air, and juiced it up with CO2 to make the club seltzer I needed to finish my mojito.
With drink in hand, I made cream cheese filling for the danishes, filled them, topped them with a bit of rosemary, sliced apricots, and a sprinkling of sugar. I also made the double barreled sausage rolls, egg washed, and baked them all.
Paid my dues to the fiancee. Cool shirt, right?
Took a look at my apricot danishes.
Not the prettiest, but not too embarrassing for a first try. My chicken filling had cooled down a little by now so I was ready to debone and fill the chicken.
Then roll it, and tie it.
Then, and this is a Certified Pro Tip, roll it tight in plastic wrap to get a nice tidy cylindrical shape.
I stopped to briefly admire the lamination on my sausage rolls.
Then lit the grill.
Since the chicken was ready to start cooking I also wanted to start the sides. To wit, I peeled the carrots, cooked them in chicken stock, and grilled the mushrooms along with the wrapped up chicken.
When the carrots were finished cooking I unwrapped the chicken and moved the chestnut mushroom to a warm spot above to heat to hold.
I took a break to decant the pink wine into the porron, then decant it from the porron into my mouth.
I made a quick rub with kewpie mayo, homemade adobo, and garlic. I coated the carrots and and grilled them.
I finished the chicken over high heat on the grill, then while it was resting, I cut the carrots, and plated them with fresh cut cilantro and slices of apricot. I also made a creamy sauce for the mushrooms with buttermilk, freshly cut chives, and rosemary. When I had finished plating those the chicken was done resting so I sliced it and plated it as well.
After dinner, I plated up some of the cherries I had been macerating, and topped them with some whipped vanilla mascarpone.
With such inspirational product all around this time of year, it was such a treat to be able to improvise a dinner with ingredients from our own garden and our friends. It speaks to a type of community that only exists in the summer in this part of the world, and that has been sorely missed for the last 16 months. If you want to learn how to improvise with ingredients you have on hand, I recommend signing up for one of The Chopping Block's upcoming Culinary Boot Camps.